- Associated Press - Sunday, January 12, 2020

SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) - ReVenna Castro-Silva may very well be a Rembrandt in the making. At the very least, the Sioux City girl is getting a head start in Fingerpainting 101, courtesy of an Early Head Start program recently begun on the Western Iowa Tech Community College campus.

For nearly 50 years, Community Action Agency of Siouxland has been helping young kids get ready for school through Head Start.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services program provides early education, health, nutrition and parent involvement services to low-income families.

In October 2018, the Administration for Children and Families announced that Community Action Agency of Siouxland would be awarded funding for an expansion of its Early Head Start program. The $1.65 million grant was to be used to create 56 new slots, specifically for kids 3 years old and under.

“It is increasingly evident that the best years to teach a child is between zero to 3 years of age,” Community Action Agency executive director Jean Logan told the Sioux City Journal. “It exposes them to early literacy, math and science, language and community while readying them for school.”

In total, seven new Early Head Start classrooms were added throughout Sioux City, including on WITCC’s campus in Sioux City.

“Early Head Start program has been a wonderful service to WITCC,” said college president Terry Murrell. “Many of our students are parents raising young children. These parents are committed to improving the lives of their families by going to school and continuing their education.”

“The Early Head Start program allow easy access to quality programming for their children, so they can focus on their own education,” he added.

Logan nodded her head in agreement.

“Whether a parent is working towards a GED, an associate’s degree or going to WITCC as a step towards a bachelor’s degree, we want to help out,” she said.

The Community Action Agency of Siouxland has been helping people since its inception in 1971. Although its programs have changed, the nonprofit’s goals have always been to provide low-income individuals the tools needed to become self-sufficient.

Every year, the Community Action Agency provides help to more than 16,000 people, primarily from Woodbury County.

This includes some of the youngest Siouxland residents, age 6 weeks to 4 years old.

Now with the addition of the seven new Early Head Start classrooms, Community Action Agency now has 29 Head Start classrooms in nine different facilities throughout the city.

“We need to be where our clients live,” Logan said.

This is becoming increasingly important as childcare services are becoming increasingly difficult to find.

“There is a shortage of reliable daycare in Siouxland,” Logan explained. “A person should never be placed in a situation where they can’t afford to improve their lives because they can’t find adequate childcare.”

That’s why Head Start, especially for infants and toddlers, is so important.

“We know that by helping children learn early we will improve (both) their social development (and) cognitive abilities,” Logan said. “This will help the kids and their parents right from the start.”

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